There are some great Alaska adventures that can be done as day trips from Anchorage. Depending on your interests, you can take a glacier cruise, take a flight over Mt. McKinley or go on a dog sled ride and be back in your Anchorage hotel by bedtime.There are two fantastic options for glacier cruises from Anchorage. The cruise out of Seward offers a variety of wildlife and glaciers and the cruise from Whittier focuses more on glacier viewing. To visit the Kenai Fjords National Park from Anchorage in a day, I recommend the following itinerary. Depart Anchorage by rail at 6:45am. The Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward offers some spectacular scenery which includes the Turnagain Arm and Spencer Glacier. Arrive in Seward at 11:05am. Depart on the 11:30am glacier and wildlife catamaran cruise. Major Marines offers a terrific salmon and prime rib buffet while cruising Kenai Fjords during which you will enjoy six hours on the water. Return to Anchorage via the Park Connection motorcoach which departs Seward at 6:30pm and arrive back in Anchorage by 9:30pm. The first half of the bus trip does not parallel the rail belt so this combination of train and bus offers the chance to see more Alaskan scenery.
If the trip to Seward starts a little early in the day for you, then a visit to Prince William Sound is your best option. Travel to Whittier by rail, departing Anchorage at 9:45pm and arriving in Whittier at 12:05pm. The train travels along the Turnagain Arm and through a 2.5 mile long tunnel before arriving in Whittier. Enjoy a 5 hour cruise on Phillips 26 Glacier Cruise with spectacular glacier viewing aboard the Klondike Express. The train departs Whittier at 6:45pm and arrives back in Anchorage about 9:15pm.
If you prefer to see your glaciers by air, I recommend a trip to Talkeetna. This unique Alaskan town is located 115 miles north of Anchorage and is the starting point for climbers attempting to summit North America’s highest peak, Mt. McKinley. The train departs Anchorage at 8:15am and arrives in Talkeetna at 11:25am. Walk the short distance from the depot to the K2 Aviation office to check in for your 12:30pm McKinley Experience flight. Marvel at the awesome sights provided by Mt. McKinley and the Alaska Range and return to Talkeetna by 1:30pm. The train back to Anchorage doesn’t depart until 4:55pm so you will have time to explore Talkeetna – there are plenty of shops, restaurants and a visitor center (Talkeetna Ranger Station) within walking distance. For an even grander Alaskan experience, upgrade the flight seeing trip to include a glacier landing! The Alaska Railroad arrives back in Anchorage at 8:00pm. I’ve done this trip with my family and it makes for a great day.
The most adventurous of the day trips from Anchorage I recommend involves a helicopter ride into the mountains and a sled dog ride on a snow covered glacier in the Chugach Mountains. This trip requires you to rent a car in Anchorage and drive 35 miles south to scenic Girdwood. The glacier sled dog tour lasts two hours, including the flight. If you take the 10:15am tour, you will get back to Girdwood just in time for lunch. The Bake Shop is located at the base of Mt. Alyeska and offers great soup and sandwiches on freshly baked bread. If you have a full day available an afternoon hike on Mt. Alyeska is the way to go. You can either take a guided or unguided hike. Ascending Path offers an exciting glacier hike from the upper mountain tram station, you will hike a scenic ridge-line surrounded by the 7 Glacier of the Girdwood Valley and outstanding views up Alyeska Glacier. A portion of the hike is on Alyeska Glacier and you will get the one in a life time experience of putting on full glacier climbing gear for about a 1 mile hike on the glacier. The trip includes all glacier equipment and attire needed. No experience necessary! If this sounds a little to adventuresome, you can choose to take an independent hike on Mt. Alyeska from top to bottom on your own. Either way, you’ll start with a beautiful ride on Mt. Alyeska’s tram up 2300 feet from the base of the mountain -an experience worth including in your travels all on its own.
Although Anchorage offers great activities within the town itself, its’ central location in Alaska also offers a nice variety of day trips. Get out and enjoy!